It’s no secret that the wilderness is full of dangers. From getting lost to encountering wild animals, there’s a lot of mistakes that can kill you in the outdoors (or just get you seriously hurt).
That’s why it’s important to know what mistakes hikers make so you can avoid them yourself. Coming up, we’ll discuss 10 common outdoor mistakes people make and how they affect your survival odds!
1. Wearing Cotton Clothing
Cotton is a natural fiber that, while comfortable and breathable, isn’t great for use in the mountains. Cotton clothing will absorb moisture from sweat or rain, which can lead to hypothermia in cold and windy environments.
Additionally, cotton doesn’t insulate well against heat loss. So even though cotton is easy to find in many stores and online because it’s affordable and comfortable, synthetic fabrics and merino wool are two superior options for all your hiking needs.
2. Choosing the Wrong Footwear for Your Hike
Simply put, don’t just pick the first shoes you find in your closet before you head outside for your next hike!
Your feet are of the utmost importance when it comes to outdoor activity and choosing the wrong footwear can lead to blisters, sore muscles, or trips and falls.
Before heading out on a hike, make sure that you have the right footwear for what kind of terrain you’ll encounter. This will help prevent injuries and it will make your adventure more enjoyable.
If hiking through waterlogged areas, waterproof high-top boots are a popular choice so that water and mud can’t get into your feet and cause discomfort on your trek. Alternatively, lightweight hiking shoes or trail running shoes are both popular options for day hikes, particularly among experienced hikers.
3. Not Eating Enough Calories
When you’re spending time outdoors, a lack of calories can lead to fatigue and lethargy. It’s important that you make sure your body is getting the right amount of nutrients in order for it to keep functioning well and maintain its energy levels so you don’t get worn down during an outdoor adventure.
So be sure to pack some nutritious snacks with a good mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats when going out on longer hikes. These macronutrients give your muscles what they need to recover properly while also giving them the fuel they need on the trail.
Additionally, hikers should always plan to bring extra food on the trail. Even if you don’t normally have much of an appetite, hiking burns an impressive amount of calories, which means more snacking in the mountains.
4. Overlooking the Importance of Dressing in Layers
It’s important to dress in layers when you’re going out on a hike so that your body can stay warm and comfortable throughout your adventure.
If it’s cold outside, it’s better to have several layers of clothing, including moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and waterproof outer layers, than one big layer. That’s because dressing in layers helps you quickly adapt to the ever-changing conditions around you.
However, overlooking the importance of dressing in layers is a mistake, even if it’s warm outside.
While your wardrobe choice will depend on what kind of conditions you might encounter during your outdoor activity, it’s vital that you always pack a few extra warm layers and a rain jacket during your hiking trips—you never know when the weather will change for the worse!
5. Relying Solely on Your Phone for Navigation
Our phones are fantastic pieces of technology, but they’re not as reliable as many people might think when in the wilderness.
It can be difficult for your phone’s GPS signal to find its way through rough terrain or thick trees. Plus, many phones either run out of battery on the trail or just stop working altogether due to moisture and cold temperatures.
On the other hand, purpose-built handheld hiking GPS units tend to be more durable, but they still shouldn’t be your sole method of navigation.
So, it’s important that you have an alternative form of navigation with you while exploring the outdoors. A map is always a good idea—that is, an actual paper map—as is a compass. But always remember that a map and compass are only useful if you know how to use them.
6. Not Carrying an Emergency Shelter
It’s essential that you always carry an emergency shelter with you on your hiking trips, even if the weather looks good.
You never know when a storm is going to blow in and make outdoor travel impossible. What happens then? If you’re unprepared for bad weather conditions, it can be dangerous or potentially life-threatening to try to hike through terrible storms without proper gear.
The best type of emergency shelters are lightweight tarps or bivvy sacks that are designed specifically for hikers who need protection from wind, rain, snowfall, hail—even heat exposure in some cases!
Always pack one of these along so that no matter what kind of environment you find yourself in while out exploring nature, there will always be shelter waiting to protect you from the elements.
7. Neglecting to Research Your Route
It’s important to research your hiking route beforehand so that you know what to expect in terms of terrain and difficulty. Consider using apps like PeakVisor or talking to a local ranger before heading out into the mountains.
Not only will researching a trail help you prepare for the hike but doing so can also alert you if there are any potential hazards or trails closed due to flooding or other natural disasters in a region
But even when everything looks great on paper, hikers should always be prepared for surprises while out exploring nature—especially because anything can happen in the great outdoors.
8. Leaving Your First Aid Kit at Home
A first aid kit is a must-have when you’re out in the wild so that you can handle any situation that comes your way.
However, while it’s important that you know how to use anything inside of your first aid kit, but it can be just as helpful if your partner also knows what each item is and where they are located in case something happens to you while on the trail.
Your first aid kit should include everything from band-aids to adhesive tape, alcohol wipes, antibiotic ointment, and over-the-counter medications. But some of the most important items in your first aid kit should be those that will help you stop life-threatening bleeding, like gauze pads and pressure dressings.
You can never really know what kind of injuries might occur when exploring nature so always have all of your bases covered by bringing along the right supplies with you at all times.
While there is an additional cost involved in buying extra bandages and other medical items, it’s important to remember that these are things that could potentially save lives one day—yours included!
9. Underestimating the Weather
When hiking in the mountains—or anywhere else, for that matter—it’s vital that you consider all the possible weather conditions that could arise during your outing. Doing so will let you pack the right gear for your trip so you’re not caught by surprise.
Oftentimes, this means bringing a rain jacket and warm clothing, just in case a storm happens to roll through while you’re hiking down the trail.
Other important items to bring on every trip include protection from the sun (think a sun hat, sun shirt, sunglasses, and sunscreen), as well as a warm hat and gloves for those unexpected storms.
Of course, you don’t want to bring so much stuff that it drags you down on the trail. That’s why it’s important to strike a good balance between keeping your pack weight low and having everything you need to get through a storm.
10. Forgetting to Tell Someone Where You’re Going
When you go on a hike, it’s important to tell a friend or family member where you’re going and when they can expect you back. (Unless you really want a repeat of 127 Hours on your next hike, that is.)
Not only is it good to have someone back at home who knows what you’re up to, but telling someone where you’re going can make it easier for emergency personnel to find you in an emergency.
However, telling friends and loved ones where you are going and when you’ll be back is just one aspect of managing the inherent risk of outdoor adventure.
While you’re outside, you may also want to consider investing in a satellite-based messaging system, like a Garmin InReach. That way, you can communicate with friends, family, and emergency responders in the mountains.